The House resumed at 8 p.m.
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resumption of the adjourned debate on the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech of the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, I arise to speak on the address of Her Honour which is a very commendable address. She said a number of things that I consider to be particularly relevant and important. I wanted to draw attention particularly to the reference to the sunset law in the Throne Speech, as some may have guessed.
Mr. McClellan: Well, is it a reference or isn’t it?
Mr. Walker: I am not sure -- there are times I wondered if it was the initiative of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith), whatever that initiative may be.
On page 11 of the Speech from the Throne, Her Honour said that “in addition, the government will establish a mechanism to review the operation of agencies, boards and commissions which have responsibility for many of the regulatory functions that are now carried out.” I am of the opinion that this signals intention on the part of the government to proceed -- I had the feeling on occasion -- kicking and screaming to the altar. But in any case it is along the lines of “sunset” as I traditionally know it.
I was disappointed that the Speech from the Throne did not actually state the word “sunset” because I thought that was a word that offered a certain meaning all of us in this House would fully appreciate. However, from my discussions carried out prior to the Speech from the Throne, and discussions with a number of people, I am satisfied that there is an indication here that sunset is likely to be deemed part of the legislative process that we may see in future months, in terms of its having been presented to the House. I am most appreciative of that, and feel it will go a long way towards solving many of the problems that we have as a Legislature -- that all governments have -- in terms of the growth of the size of our bureaucracy, the dimension of our bureaucracy and its involvement in the daily lives of people.
When we talked about sunset, I really don’t need to remind members that we are talking about an automatic termination, an automatic death date if you choose to use those words; but, in any case, a point in time when there will be a finish, an absolute end, a termination, a death of a regulatory board, an agency, a commission, and for that matter a government program. The proposal in the Throne Speech does not seem to go so far as to include government programs, but I would hope that government programs might come under the scrutiny of the sunset provision.
Mr. Wildman: What about government members?
Mr. Walker: I want to remind the member for Algoma, who has indicated we should include government members, that the first and only form of sunset has occurred with government members and with opposition members. It occurs almost every four years and occasionally sooner.
Mr. Laughren: You know that.
Mr. Walker: There is a certain accountability that occurs, and speaking with some degree of knowledge -- perhaps somewhat greater than that of others in this Legislature -- I can say that the provisions of sunset are at times very devastating. They certainly accomplish their purpose and solve a number of problems.
The sunset that we see here does not go so far as to include the provisions of a government program. I think that is unfortunate; however, I think there is room for government programs all eventually to be included.
My particular concern involves the area of licensing. I think all of us are concerned about the degree to which regulatory agencies, through the vehicle of licensing, interfere with the ways of our lives. We don’t have to look very far -- to municipal licensing, to provincial licensing, and in fact to federal licensing -- to realize that we have a gross amount of over-regulation in this country. I mention what used to be called the CRTC. I don’t know what the new acronym is, but it is the equivalent of the agency which licenses the right of television to provide some form of service but which in fact provides, for our benefit, what we want to see, whether we want to see it or not. And I think that’s the unfortunate part of these licensing agencies.
The regulatory agencies in Colorado: some members will remember the debate on November 3 concerning the regulatory agencies in that state of the union. There, 40 of the regulatory agencies were brought under the aegis of what is called the “sunset provision,” and legislated into them was the automatic termination date beyond which these boards and commissions and agencies, which were regulatory, would not continue. That has had a very good effect.
The program was scheduled so that some 13 agencies were to be considered in the year 1977; the Act was passed in 1976. The 1976 Act in Colorado indicated that 13 of the agencies would be reviewed in the year 1977, a further 13 in 1979, and 13 more in 1981. It gave a proper vehicle for review. The review process was to be completed by the Legislature prior to the actual termination date of the agency. In Colorado in 1977, as I indicated, 13 agencies were reviewed, one being the Passenger Tramway Agency, whatever that was. That was one of the four which ended up being terminated completely. It was allowed to come to a successful conclusion and entered into that area restricted to those who depart life.
The other agencies were reviewed very methodically and some four or five survived the review process completely unscathed. An additional four or five were modified in serious and significant ways. That process alone was very valuable. But perhaps the inherent process that was unexpected in the Colorado review was the therapeutic value that it had on the other agencies, boards and commissions within the purview of that state. Suddenly all kinds of new and good and methodical changes in the policies came forward.
A good many of the boards and commissions, who were self-regulatory, went through that good, medicinal approach of removing their worst appendages and correcting some of their abuses. That process was extremely good, too. By the end of 1977 a good number of the boards had eliminated the unnecessary parts of their legislation. That in itself, while not directly part of the process of sunset, was a spinoff which proved to be extremely successful.
The general philosophy in all this is that no program, no agency, no board, no commission -- no regulatory body -- is so sacrosanct as to escape regular and periodic review. That is something I think our Legislature fails to achieve. It fails to accommodate a review process. There just is no review. I don’t know when this Legislature has reviewed anything.
Only occasionally the odd item will come forward from the past for some reason -- usually due to media attention -- and it is given some review. But by and large we have a process that’s not unlike a sausage machine in that it cranks out -- if I may use that awful description -- one sausage after another sausage after another sausage, and they merely pile up on the floor, there to lie forever. Really, they’re never thoroughly reviewed. That, I think, is a significant bad side in our legislative process.
The real issue is whether or not all those boards, agencies, commissions and programs are really worthwhile, are really worth keeping. Are they ever reviewed? The answer is no. The approach we take in the Legislature is a scattergun approach. We approach it through the estimates and the estimates approach, I think for all members, is a totally -- well, I don’t like to use the word “useless,” but I must suggest that the word “useless” comes to mind. I am not convinced that the estimates approach has any value whatsoever in our legislative process.
What happens? If we review it, it’s in a scattergun approach. If we review it and we reduce it by $1 the government’s liable to fall. So what are we really going to accomplish, even in this minority time?
Mr. Wildman: That would be something.
Mr. Walker: The estimates are neither increased nor reduced. What happens is that the minister goes before the estimates committee -- whatever it might be -- and he subjects himself to the kind of abuse that only some of us can provide, and he comes out usually scathed --
Mr. Wildman: Quit looking at the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel).
Mr. Walker: -- certainly being offered comments that are not appropriate for reproduction at this moment, and he’s not at all happy about the process.
What about the government members? Most of the government members go in and, frankly, they sit there and wonder why they’re there.
Mr. Haggerty: I can give you some reasons.
Mr. Walker: If they raise too many questions, the minister starts to wonder why they’re there too.
Mr. Martel: They will not get to be a PA, Gord.
Mr. Walker: That’s right. And if they start to raise very embarrassing questions, I think there are times when the minister has some feeling that perhaps we would be better off if they weren’t present at that time.
For the members of the opposition, I guess there is good therapy in that, because it’s a chance to berate people, to rake people over the coals, to rake even civil servants over the coals. What is accomplished in the end? Really nothing. The minister walks out with his budget intact, So what has been accomplished by that period of 20 hours spent on it?
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications had their estimates before our committee -- and I see the minister (Mr. Snow) looking forward and I remember him so well appearing before our committee. It was a very interesting discussion that we had with the minister. We spent 20 hours discussing the estimates of his department and that ministry carries estimates that are $1,063,144,000.
Mr. Kerrio: Too much money.
Mr. Walker: The estimates were neither increased nor decreased,
Mr. Blundy: And they won’t build a highway to Sarnia.
Mr. Walker: I don’t think that really says the minister was perfect in his estimates. I think that merely recognizes the fact that if the estimates had been reduced or altered in some meaningful way then there would be likely an election in the offing. So, of course, there was no reduction of the estimates.
Mr. Wildman: There must be a couple of roads in your riding you don’t want built.
Mr. Walker: However, I have a very able person by the name of Ann Townend, who is a parliamentary intern this year with me, and she did an analysis of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications estimates to see just what the votes represented and just what was discussed generally. It might interest you to know that, as I indicated, the budget is $1,063,144,000 -- a lot of money.
Mr. Martel: Yes, 10 per cent a year.
Mr. Kerrio: Just about what the government is going to overspend; what you are going to go into debt for.
Mr. Laughren: Just about the deficit.
Mr. Kerrio: Cut that one right out and you will balance the budget.
Mr. Walker: The votes were rather interesting. I think the opposition can take a lot of credit for their review and thorough analysis of what this minister presented before the House, because during that period of time there was one area that was reviewed, and in terms of money it represented three per cent of the budget -- approximately $32 million. Yet 25 per cent of the estimates time was devoted to it. Fully five hours was devoted then to three per cent of the budget.
Mr. Wildman: What was it?
Mr. Walker: That was the area involving vote 2503, dealing with the Ontario Highway Transport Board and the administration of that particular area; half the time was spent on that $714,000. And for the balance, the $30 million, another two and a half hours was spent on that. That involved licensing, inspection, examination and enforcement.
Then there were three votes -- just to make up the balance of the time -- that totalled 92 per cent of the budget -- almost $1 billion; $987,144,000. You would expect that 92 per cent of the budget would command an awful lot of attention; and it did -- fully 21 per cent of the time was spent on 92 per cent of the budget.
Mr. Martel: But we don’t all have assistants to do that research for us, Gordon.
Mr. Walker: These were parliamentary interns, and they were available.
Mr. Martel: That’s right, but there are only eight of them floating around.
Mr. Walker: I am very properly accommodated by my parliamentary intern who has provided some very good research.
Mr. Martel: Right, now give us all one and we would be happy.
Mr. Walker: She has indicated that just over four hours was spent on over $978 million -- which was 92 per cent of that particular budget.
Mr. Bounsall: It’s disgraceful, the way the government schedules its business.
Mr. Walker: I agree with the member for Windsor-Sandwich who indicates that that is disgraceful. I can’t understand why members of the opposition would have spent so much time on so little.
Mr. Bounsall: The government organized the time structure.
Mr. Cunningham: Trying to get the answers; in fact, we are still waiting.
Mr. Walker: I think that all points out that very little time is spent on the kind of programs that come before the Legislature. For the benefit of the minister, it is a kind of tiring exercise. I suppose he wonders why he goes through it. For the opposition, when they get all the way through, they too wonder, I suppose, why they have gone all the way through it.
Mr. Bounsall: It is called being a government.
Mr. Laughren: It doesn’t bother Jim Snow.
Mr. Walker: All they ultimately find is a scattergun approach, so that extremely important programs are totally ignored in the whole process. And that is why I think the estimates approach should be given a look at.
Mr. Bounsall: We will really take Transportation down the next time.
Mr. Wildman: Did you break it down in terms of questions and answers?
Mr. Walker: This was one particular ministry taken at random. I think other ministries would reflect the same. There is not the proper opportunity to review all the programs in a meaningful way and then to do something about it. It would seem to me that with a sunset law built into a certain number of government programs -- in fact, hopefully, all programs at some point in time -- these might properly be brought before the opposition and government members who sit on these committees --
Mr. Cunningham: Sunset law for ministers.
Mr. Walker: -- to carefully consider and determine whether a program has served its usefulness or not. That, I think, would be an extremely valuable purpose, and I would recommend it as a logical extension of the entire process.
Mr. Martel: I thought you were going to recommend a researcher for each of us.
Mr. Wildman: Did you calculate how long the minister took to answer the questions?
Mr. Walker: That is a comment about sunset. Certainly sunset can be blended very well with the concept of zero-base budgeting, which I gather the government is approaching in fairly strong and meaningful ways.
Mr. Wildman: Did you say the government was approaching a sunset?
Mr. Walker: No, zero-base budgeting. But I understand that great representative of the people, the Ombudsman, has introduced his budget before the Board of Internal Economy -- I think that is how it is put, Mr. Speaker; variously, other words are applied to it. In any case, I understand the Ombudsman has put forward his budget, which is something like $89,000 less than what it was last year and which was fairly significant.
I am told the reason for that achievement was an approach to a budgeting called the zero-base budgeting process, which means that instead of considering the budget as of last year and adding on a certain percentage for next year, what you do is take the budget, go back to zero and say, “What would happen if we had no dollars in this particular budget, in this particular decision package for this particular year?” Then, when you’ve considered that and come to the conclusion that calamity would occur, you say, “All right. What would happen if we had 25 per cent of the dollars?” You scale it upward to 100 per cent of the dollars and, after four attempts, you may arrive at 100 per cent and then even add something on. That would be unlike last year, when let us say the budget was $82 million last year, as an example, for a certain program; therefore, we would add on 10 per cent for inflation and the budget logically would be whatever that is -- $90 million or so -- for the ensuing year.
That is why I think zero-base budgeting is so attractive; it is a way of getting to the root question: Is this program even needed at all? Can we get rid of it? That is the kind of thing that I think would be extremely valuable through much of the government process, and I am very pleased to see so many of the ministries now venturing into zero-base budgeting.
The connection with sunset is that sunset is merely a triggering mechanism that brings it about. Once the triggering mechanism occurs, once the review is forced upon the legislative body -- whatever it may be -- then the approach of zero-base budgeting is properly reviewed at that point of time. So there is a strong marriage between the two points.
I think zero-base budgeting has an awful lot to offer, and I am so pleased to see the government proceeding along that line in so many of the ministries at this moment in time. It is impossible to attempt to zero-base the whole government at once and it has to be done on a gradual basis. I commend the government in their approach this way, and I am even more pleased to see the addition of what I deem to be a sunset provision in the Throne Speech. I suppose if it is not sunset, we will have to bring in some kind of a bill that might propose sunset at some point in time.
Mr. Wildman: I think you are moon-gazing.
Mr. Walker: In any case, at the moment it looks to me as if this is the sunset and I am very pleased that we have arrived at that point.
Mr. Martel: We could have sunset for Frank Miller. It would be a new idea.
Mr. Walker: It all fits well into the concept of deregulation which I think is a thread through the entire Throne Speech -- deregulation, less government, less size, less bureaucracy and so much the better for everybody concerned.
Mr. Riddell: You’d better come over to this side. That’s what we have been saying.
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, it’s rather interesting that the former member for London North is followed by the member for London North. First of all, I would say that it is a pleasure and honour for me to reply to the Throne Speech for this second session of the 31st Parliament. As the member for the riding of London North, to which I alluded a moment ago, I am very mindful of my duty and obligation to those constituents who thought enough of me to make me their representative in this great province.
Mr. Riddell: They love you, Ronnie.
Mr. Van Hone: I hope their foresight in this past election will be not unlike that of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, who back in the year 1793 selected the forks of the Thames as his choice for a possible future site for the capital of the province, or at least the western seat of the province. Of course, those of us who are historians will recall that that city, although it was not founded until 1826, did in fact become the administrative seat for the vast London district of what used to be known as the southwestern peninsula.
The ongoing growth and prosperity of this fine community is a reflection of the strong character of those fine people and, again, a reflection of those people that we call Ontarians. If there is a thread through the Speech from the Throne, and the member for London South has found a thread --
Mr. Laughren: It’s threadbare.
Mr. Van Horne: -- perhaps a little different from mine, I would have to suggest that that thread is a people thread.
Mr. Wildman: It’s going to hang them.
Mr. Van Hone: I would like, before I get into specific comments, to make one or two observations that would be of interest, I hope, to the members of the House. I would like to point out particularly that the University of Western Ontario, which is in a part of the riding that I represent, will celebrate its 100th anniversary on March 7; in other words, in another few days. Western’s centenary, which will be marked with a week of special activity culminating in activities on March 7, I would hope would be acknowledged by all members but specifically by those members who happen to claim Western as their alma mater. It was on March 7, 1878 that royal assent was given to the Act of incorporation of the University of Western Ontario.
There is another general observation, too, before I get to specifics, and that is that I’m very concerned as a new member to look at the history of the House in the last eight years. If my research is correct, I would call to the attention of the members that the number of days in which the House has sat from 1970 through to the end of 1977 would average about 101 days per year. This sounds amazing, does it not, that in a province which has over eight million people and with a budget that has within this last year passed the $14 billion mark, all of its business can be done in so little period of time, so few days.
For example, in the year 1970, the House sat for 88 days; in 1971, for 62 days; in 1972, for 77 days; in 1973, for 112; in 1974, for 135; in 1975, for 155; in 1976, for 103; in 1977, for 76. This total of 808 days over eight years is a deplorable record.
I would like to suggest that it has been far too easy particularly for the government to insist on the business of the House being done in committee. The guise, to me, is obvious. This frees up, for members of government and cabinet, a lot of time for them to carry on business, public relations and other business, and assists them in the perpetuity of Tory government.
It is my attitude and my opinion that this must change. I would state very clearly that this House should sit as long as necessary to get its business done. It should not, except in dire circumstances or emergency situations, refer its business to committees that meet when the House does not normally sit. We should all take it upon ourselves to resolve that the business of the province of Ontario will be done five days a week, 52 weeks or 50 weeks a year if necessary, to make sure that the job is done.
This comment leads me into the thrust of the Speech from the Throne, this speech which indicated in its early comments that our main challenge as members of Parliament is to meet the crisis of confidence -- I think that is an exact quote -- also to build upon our assets to reflect the belief in the type of society we are trying to preserve.
I, for one, and I am sure also my colleagues in this part of the House, would assure the government that we accept this challenge. The Speech from the Throne indicates that the worst unemployment, in Ontario as in Canada, is among the youth. Unfortunately, the speech does not give too much hope for this group. Vague reference is made to a training program especially geared to satisfying the manpower needs of industry. It also goes on to say that development of such a program will be given the highest priority in the coming year. It says too that the new training scheme will emphasize employer-centred training and will provide the required level of skills in the shortest possible time.
It goes on to point out, moreover, that the Minister of Labour (B. Stephenson) will in the very near future convene a conference with college and university personnel and representatives of labour and business as well as federal and provincial officials directly concerned. What a tower of Babylon will be built again! I would submit that the history of the apprenticeship training program in this province is not an altogether happy one. There is a growing confusion between the levels of authority in so far as apprenticeship is concerned. These levels of authority are those levels that one would find in the secondary schools. They are the teachers responsible there for the preliminary training at least of the people going into trades and then, beyond them, the people at the colleges and universities, particularly at the colleges of applied arts and technology level. Then they have to work in concert with the various employers involved in whatever training program.
These lines of authority have turned fuzzy at best. It would now seem that there really is not one central authority. To add to this, as is suggested in the Speech from the Throne, further confusion from the Ministry of Labour will not, in my opinion, resolve the problem. If it is true that the major group with which the government has to concern itself, that is, the unemployed group, is that group from age 16 to 24, I would suggest the central authority which must take upon itself greater responsibility is not Labour or Colleges and Universities but rather Education.
This is the system which has these young people in the years leading up to 16 years of age and has a responsibility to teach these young people the very skills they will need to succeed, be it in a trade or otherwise, in our economically lagging province. People must be encouraged -- and I am not quarrelling with that particular part of the implication in the Speech from the Throne -- to train in technology and skilled trade areas. I do not think we should be training more and more teachers and nurses, if I can use this as an example, when our obvious need might be for people such as geriatric care workers or environmental specialists. No matter how one looks at it, the educational system starting in elementary and on into secondary schools is that agency which must have as its major function the concern of these youngsters on an ongoing basis.
If I could revert just for a moment to the role of the secondary and elementary schools, it is my opinion that we have to build in our schools a new spirit of self-reliance. Our young people must learn to rely upon themselves and not on government jobs and government handouts. We need to regain the pioneer spirit which built this great country and this great province. Our young people are going to have to work harder, compete more fiercely and scramble faster than any other recent generation of Ontarians. It will not be easy for them to make it in the world and we had better start telling them that.
Hard work, competition and discipline will be the keys to success and to survival, but these are, in my opinion again, exactly the qualities which have been taken out of our school system. In other words, hard work and discipline must be restored to our schools. We owe that much at least to our young people, who desperately need to learn the skills which will make them able to get a job and make their way in our free-enterprise economy.
I was disappointed that in the Speech from the Throne we did not find too heavy a reference to the various problems in our educational system. It has been said before by our party and I would like to repeat it. Personally I am of the opinion that there is a great need to establish diagnostic evaluation processes to measure the achievement of children within our system. The results, we would hope, would enable these children and their parents and teachers to identify areas which require more work, or from which they could benefit from enrichment.
In this connection, too, I would suggest that although there has been recent reference from the ministry to basic subjects, or a more definitely underlined emphasis on core curriculum, we must go a step further and spell out the specifics of core curriculum, including English grammar, English literature, mathematics -- Canadian history and geography would not hurt either -- and perhaps a little more emphasis on physical education and health education, which for some time unfortunately have been getting nothing much more than lip service.
I would like to digress for just a moment. From time to time -- and I give credit to the government for this -- there has been an attempt to try to find out what some of the shortcomings are, what some of the problems are as a youngster moves from elementary to secondary, or secondary to post-secondary education. This little quote from the text “Basic Skills at School and Work” I think is a reflection to prove the point, and I am quoting:
“Students, too, are keenly aware of their shortcomings. Their teachers in secondary school and post-secondary institutions have hammered the point home. Young people have discovered that they are ill-equipped for the formal demands of any post-secondary courses which require much reading and writing. Students rarely express pride in their secondary school education. They feel that much of their work was futile. Many now express regret that they were permitted to avoid the drill and discipline needed to provide solid competence in mathematics and English composition.” I use that, Mr. Speaker, as only one evidence of some of the earlier comments I made.
It is rather disturbing as one looks through the Speech from the Throne to hear that the government plans to attack the unemployment problem -- and with emphasis for this younger-age group to which I have referred -- through two, what I would call, Band-Aid programs. I refer specifically to the Ontario Youth Employment Program, which is basically a summer employment subsidy program, and to the Career Action Program, which too, really is nothing more than a short-term proposal. Surely we can do better than that.
I will come back to education in a moment, but following through the Throne Speech I would like now, very briefly, to move into the area of the economic proposals. I must submit that I am not an expert in matters economic. Certainly one, however, could not quarrel, be he expert or not, with the aim suggested, and that is to improve our balance of payments and return our deficit position to a balance point, particularly in such fields as tourism. That has to be commendable. There is also an intent, as I understand it, to increase efforts to find new export markets for Canadian products, particularly Ontario products, and technology. This, too, has to be commendable.
But let me submit to the House that in this regard we are overlooking perhaps one of the biggest assets our province has. There wasn’t a reference made to this in the speech. That oversight is this: In my opinion, we have more well-qualified doctors, medical technicians, dentists, dental technicians, pharmacists, pharmaceutical technicians -- generally speaking, if you want to put them under one umbrella, scientifically oriented people -- per capita than any other part of Canada or any part of the western hemisphere. We are blessed with many capable scientific people. Yet we are not assisting in any way -- we are not giving any provincial encouragement in -- the field of medical and related research. That, in my opinion, is more than sinful.
Hopefully, the comment in the Speech from the Throne in so far as the challenge of coping with the unprecedented growth of the 1960s being replaced by the need for reordering of priorities in the late 1970s -- that is to do better with relatively less -- cannot and should not apply in the field of medical, nor for that matter scientific, research.
In regard to the comment made about the government increasing its investment in energy conservation and renewable energy projects, let me say at the beginning I applaud this statement. Lest the government -- three or four representatives of which happen to be here tonight --
Mr. Mancini: It’s nice of the member for Peterborough (Mr. Turner) to show up.
Mr. Wildman: He’s practically the only one from the government here tonight.
Mr. Van Horne: -- feel that it has come upon something new, I would like to read a quotation:
“Within our lifetime, our greatest need will be conservation. Our greatest thrust should be to encourage scientists and engineering people to plan the wisest possible use and development of our energy resources. The comparatively cheap hydro power which we can now provide will attract industry and population. Our concern then is for development based on a foundation of wise use and conservation.”
This statement was made to the Rotary Club of London in 1928. The speaker was Dr. E. D. Buchanan, a lifelong friend of Sir Adam Beck and a former general manager of the London Public Utilities Commission. His statement, which I just read, sounds very much like something that we heard last Tuesday.
Surely the government and Hydro should have known for many years that conservation had to be one of its main programs. Let us hope the growing concern for Hydro over cost and conservation will be put into a program that will be a positive and meaningful program.
I found it interesting, in following through the Speech from the Throne, to see how references continually were made to education. I’m going to go back to that topic, because in the sequence of things this does come up at this point in the evolution of that particular document.
I note with interest that the government will seize -- note the word -- it’s going to seize the opportunity to place an increasing emphasis on special education in our elementary and secondary schools.
Mr. Wildman: They’re going to put it in a straitjacket.
Mr. Van Horne: I’m pleased to note that a plan of increased funding has been introduced to stimulate and support expanded special education programs and services at the local board levels. At least that’s what I’m told. I’ve tried to analyse this statement with some people in the ministry and my analysis has revealed, in these last few days, that approximately $12.6 million more will be made available for special education at the elementary level and $11.5 million available at the secondary level for this coming year. Add them together and you get $24.1 million. When we take a look at the overall budget of $2.4 billion plus for this past year, we will realize what a rather insignificant percentage increase that is.
These increased funds, as I understand it at any rate, come through the ministry manipulating weighting factors; and if anyone wishes to take on an interesting exercise of an evening, I would suggest that he goes through the grant regulations and then follows that up by trying to understand weighting factors.
Although this project is commendable, one has to wonder just how long these funds will be available to our school systems. The ministry cannot, if it is serious about these programs, put the funds in for a year or two and then remove them if things happen to get a little tougher.
Special education programs are just that. They are special. They take a long time to plan, they take a long time to implement. The minister must, at the same time that he announces such increased funds for the coming year, also indicate to school boards a greater continuing concern for special education than has been shown in the past.
In this regard I note that the Throne Speech also makes reference to initiatives being taken to place more emphasis on early identification of children with learning disabilities. It brings tears to your eyes. I am sure the former leader of the third party is about to reach for his Kleenex.
Mr. Speaker, if they are serious about this, one would have to question some events from the past. Some six years ago the Windsor board of education and the Ministry of Education in the province of Ontario began a project called the Windsor Early Identification Project. This very commendable undertaking was completed and its findings summarized in a booklet form issued in 1976. Many of the findings in that report could be used for future planning. I would like to know if the ministry is intending to use this as its foundation for this new program or whether something else is being planned.
I find it very disturbing that the ministry puts great emphasis on projects such as this. The projects seem to be nothing more than just that, a project, something to be done for a year or two and then left alone.
To give evidence again to this criticism, I would suggest that during the estimates debate in July of 1977 when a question was put to one of the staff of the ministry about incidence tables for those children with learning disabilities, the ministry replied that it, in fact, did not have an Ontario incidence table. Yet there was the project to which I referred just a few moments ago, the Windsor Early Identification Project. If any members are interested copies are available; it’s an interesting document.
How much dust is that gathering on the shelves now, and why didn’t they follow it up with further studies to find how many of these youngsters there are in the province so that they could properly fund for them? How can they fund for children with learning disabilities or for special education if they don’t know how many they have got? It makes absolutely no sense at all and I hope, beyond all hope, that the ministry is not playing with this. To give them credit I feel that they are not, but I am not sure that they are going in the right direction.
Before I leave this topic, I would like to note that there is not one single reference in the Speech from the Throne, not one single reference, to where the Ministry of Education particularly, or for that matter any of the ministries, is going to cut. Where? Where do we find reference to that? Certainly, is that not one of the thrusts that should have been taken in the opening of this new session?
I find other comments that are made in the Speech from the Throne interesting. I found it a little disconcerting to see that reference was made to compulsory automobile insurance before there was any opportunity for the select committee on company law to make any of its recommendations known to the House. That particular committee is winding up its considerations and its study on that theme of automobile insurance. It struck me that the government moved a little bit beyond what it should have considered its domain and, as far as I can determine, made no reference to that committee before it made that statement in the Speech from the Throne.
I am not quarrelling with compulsory automobile insurance; I am quarrelling with the way in which it was presented and perhaps with the uncertainty about the implementation date. What does implemented by December, 1979 mean? Will we be totally phased in by then or will we start phasing in at that point in time?
I have another comment or two. Legislation is proposed to protect children caught up in family disputes, and one cannot help but applaud that type of legislation. It is interesting to note in the sequence of things in the Throne Speech that this legislation is followed with a direct reference to a series of initiatives towards an overall approach to combat alcohol abuse in our society. I am sure that this back-to-back reference to family law legislation and the new legislation controlling alcohol is not an accident. It was rather skillfully designed to put these back to back. Hopefully, when the members of this House deal with these problems, party loyalties will be put aside and the common good of all those people in our province will be considered.
At this point in time, I must take a moment to remind all of those present and those that might read the Hansard record of this evening that we cannot forget that the initial impetus for changing the drinking age -- the legislation coming from a private member’s bill -- came from the Liberal member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini).
Mr. Mackenzie: And the select committee on highway safety.
Mr. Van Horne: Or both.
In conclusion, it will be interesting to see how the government manages to manipulate the finances of our province in order to try to achieve the goal of a balanced budget over the next year, or two or three or four years. Hopefully, the government will not resort to taxation only as a means to attain this end. I am sure we are all aware that when Adam Smith proposed his four basic principles of taxation, he insisted that taxes should always be --
Mr. Laughren: Did he say Adam Smith?
Mr. Van Horne: It depends on which book the member likes to read.
Mr. Samis: That’s not one of the member for Nickel Belt’s favourites.
Mr. Van Horne: Does he want me to bring out another reference, say Karl Marx?
Mr. Laughren: I used to stand on his book to reach the cookie jar. That is how old it is.
Mr. Samis: You should see what he’s got in his library now.
Mr. Van Horne: The basic principles referred to, either by him or others, are that taxes should be certain, convenient, economical and based on the individual’s ability to pay. What wasn’t mentioned was that taxes should also have the capability of raising a great deal of money for the hard-pressed taxing authority. We all know who that is; members opposite, I am sure, will be aware of that.
I had to chuckle at an article in our local press in the fall headed, “How the Government Picks Your Pocket.” A reference was made therein to Ontario introducing the provincial gasoline tax back in 1925, which raised a humble $2 million in the first year of operation. I understand that in this past year there was something over $500 million raised through that same tax. Those members who scanned the press today will realize that gasoline is going to cost even more in another day or two.
The provincial sales tax is another device. Julius Caesar is really the one who introduced the old sales tax. Then we had our own dictator; I think Frost was his name. In 1961 he exhibited some of the same fearsome facility for filching money out of our taxpayers’ pockets. In 1961 the government introduced something that was called the Frostbite. I may have the date just a little inaccurate, but the Frostbite, the first provincial sales tax, fixed at three per cent, raised $175 million. Now that it’s up around the seven per cent level, how much is the government pulling in? Short of $2 billion? Whatever the numbers, surely the taxpayers of this province are staggering under the weight of these various hidden and open taxes.
Let us, before we consider any further taxation, take a look at those areas within our provincial budget from which we could cull out those fat areas. Let’s review all of those budgets and reduce them wherever possible.
I can’t help but chuckle when I recall another comment made by a gentleman by the name of Levenson. We’re all struggling with making ends meet, and Levenson said, “I spent so many years of my life learning how to make ends meet. Now that I have the means, they’ve moved the ends farther apart.” I think that’s what’s happening to our people here in the province of Ontario.
Mr. Nixon: Right.
Mr. Samis: Even down on the farm, Bob. Next page.
Mr. Van Horne: In summary, our job as members of Parliament is to work for the individual welfare of each Ontarian and the collective good of our province. Can you imagine how effective we could be if we did work together for the people of Ontario?
There is reference made from time to time about the individual. It has been said that behind every deed and behind every great movement there has been an individual, a person existing. As the dictionary puts it, “Person: A separate, indivisible entity; unique, never repeated phenomenon, acting and feeling in a peculiar way, a way peculiar to himself.” He is a person who has resolved, “I will walk on my own feet. I will work with my own hands. I will speak with my own mind.” If we could get together, we could get the job done in the province of Ontario. I was hoping that I would have seen more of that in the Speech from the Throne. Perhaps the members would take these few words under advisement and work together.
Mr. McClellan: I’m pleased to take part in the Throne Speech debate, Mr. Speaker, although God knows this is surely the most vacuous Throne Speech that has come our way, at least since I was elected in 1975.
Mr. Martel: It is called the year of the dinosaur.
Mr. McClellan: At a time when unemployment is verging on 300,000 people in this province out of work, the Throne Speech offers on the major social problem of the day a complete cop-out; a little cheer-leading towards Mr. Trudeau’s feeble efforts to deal with the problem of unemployment, but a self-righteous, Pontius Pilate-ish washing of the hands in the face of the tragedy of unemployment in this province.
It’s pathetic. As my colleague said, it’s a threadbare Throne Speech that is a disgrace to any government in any province.
I don’t want to dwell on this --
Mr. Nixon: Are you for or against it?
Mr. McClellan: I’m against it. This is a fairly dead crowd. You have to realize the difficulty --
Mr. Nixon: We remember when you used to work for a living. You used to sit under the gallery here telling Yaremko what to say. Do you remember that?
Mr. Martel: You can’t even insult them.
Mr. McClellan: That’s right; there’s nobody to insult. There’s nobody for me to work myself into the --
Mr. Martel: Frank Miller is over there giving away land.
Mr. McClellan: -- into the self-righteous rage that this Throne Speech deserves.
Mr. Wildman: You’ve got two members of the government.
Mr. Turner: Where are they when you really need them?
Mr. Samis: Come on, John, work on him.
Mr. Nixon: I see Villeneuve.
Mr. McClellan: So I hope you’ll appreciate the difficulties that I’m labouring under.
Mr. Cunningham: Dispense.
Mr. Samis: We’ve got more in the back bench than you’ve got in the whole place.
Mr. McClellan: The last Throne Speech, as I recall, wrapped itself in the flag. This Throne Speech, I suppose you could say, Mr. Speaker, hides behind the skirts of the family. This little series of diversionary hallelujahs to the family is set out as though this government had some reason to be proud of its record with respect to services to families or to people in this province.
I thought it would be useful to spend my allotted time elaborating on a tiny little section of Throne Speech on page 17, and just look at this government’s record with respect to services to families in this province.
The Throne Speech, on page 17, has the following noble sentiment: “My government shares the concerns of thoughtful citizens who see a need for concerted action, and is prepared to take a leading part in supporting and strengthening the family in Ontario.”
Mr. Martel: Going to increase family benefits tomorrow.
Mr. McClellan: “First, the government will undertake a comprehensive review of its policies and programs as they affect the family, with the aim of making changes to” et cetera. “Special attention will be focused on the needs of single parent families, working mothers and their children, family care for the handicapped, the sick and the elderly.”
Mr. Martel: At the same time cut the budget.
Mr. McClellan: At the same time cut the budget.
This government has nerve in associating itself with, as it says, thoughtful citizens who have a concern for the family, who see a need for concerted action. We should just spend a few minutes looking at this government’s record in each of those areas that it outlines for itself as subjects of special attention.
We can make some suggestions to this government, some fairly concrete suggestions, around what they might do if they are serious about undertaking a review of this government’s policies and programs with respect to family. I hope that the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Norton), and the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch), will pay some attention.
Mr. Martel: Would they were here.
Mr. McClellan: If they were here.
Single-parent families are the first group identified: and the plight of single-parent families in this province ought to be one of the major concerns, even obsessions, of a government concerned in a serious way with the needs of the family.
Since 1961 there has been an 85 per cent increase in social assistance caseloads in this province and a substantial portion of that increase has been attributable to the increase in the number of single-parent families on social assistance rolls.
The children of single-parent families in Ontario who are members of families on social assistance rolls number 100,000; one hundred thousand children in Ontario are members of single-parent families on social assistance. Quoting from a June 1977 report of the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, as follows: “We may say that Ontario welfare allowances are neither adequate nor equitable, and that those dependent upon them are unquestionably living in poverty.” One hundred thousand children in this province, who are the direct responsibility of this government because they are dependent for their support on this government, are living in poverty.
Mr. Wildman: They should go on Workmen’s Compensation benefits.
Mr. McClellan: The government has had an opportunity to redress this inequity. There was a period between June 1975 and April 1977 when the social assistance rate remained unchanged; the period during which the consumer price index went up some 20 per cent. Finally, in April 1977 the government raised the social assistance rate nine per cent to restore exactly half of the lost purchasing power of families on social assistance in this province. At the same time, the government had unspent funds in the family benefit and general welfare assistance budget for 1976-77 of $36 million. At the end of the fiscal year 1976-77, $36.6 million was left unspent and disappeared back into general revenue. That $36 million was sufficient to give an eight per cent increase to social assistance recipients, including the 100,000 kids in poverty on social assistance in this province. And yet this government used that money as part of its ruthless and obsessive desire to meet its goal of a balanced budget. That money would have been sufficient to restore the purchasing power of social assistance recipients; almost exactly to restore the purchasing power that had been eroded over the years 1975 to 1977.
But that is not what this government is about. This government is not about meeting the needs of single-parent families. That is not what this government is in the business to do. Their business is to keep these kinds of families, these kinds of kids, in a state of poverty to meet their overall objectives of restoring profit to the private sector. That is simply what they are about. For them to say in the Throne Speech that they have concerns about families is the sheerest unadulterated hypocrisy. This government still pays foster parents more money to look after somebody else’s kids --
Hon. B. Stephenson: Balderdash.
Mr Wildman: The minister says that’s balderdash.
Mr. McClellan: This government still pays foster parents, in case the Minister of Labour wasn’t listening, more money to look after somebody else’s children than it will pay a mother to look after her own child.
Mr. Mancini: Are you listening, Bette?
Mr. McClellan: And this is a government that states in its Throne Speech that it has a concern for the needs of families. That is the sheerest bunk.
The government says it intends to review the special needs of working mothers. They are going to have a comprehensive review of the special needs of working mothers. This is the same government that brought a total halt to day-care expansion in 1976-77. I should say not a total halt -- the government was going to build 215 new day-care spaces for the year 1976-77.
The government budgeted, for day-care operating money, $29 million. They spent $24 million for a surplus of day-care operating funds of $4.4 million. They budgeted $5 million for mental retardation day-care centres and spent $3.7 million for a saving of $1.3 million. They budgeted $5.4 million for day-care capital. They spent $3 million for a surplus of $2.4 million. They had a surplus at the end of 1976-1977 of $8 million in unspent money for day care. And they have the nerve now to say in the Throne Speech that they are going to pay special attention to the needs of working mothers, after bringing a complete halt to day-care expansion and after piling up a surplus of $8 million -- again, for the purpose of restoring profitability to the private sector, regardless of the social consequences.
This is the government that requires working mothers who wish to obtain a day-care subsidy to go to the welfare office. This is the government that requires ritual degradation and humiliation of working mothers who want to get day care for their kids and need a subsidy. And they have to go to the George Street welfare office in my city of Toronto and fill out the most humiliating and intrusive means test that exists, I think, anywhere in this country. I think that the Form 7 means-test ritual that is required of day-care subsidy applicants is probably the most abusive and humiliating means test that exists anywhere in this country.
This is the government that says in the Throne Speech that it has a concern about the needs of working mothers. They have the gall in the Throne Speech to say they are going to celebrate this year the United Nations’ year of the child. If you are going to do that --
Hon. B. Stephenson: That starts next year. It’s not this year; it’s next year.
Mr. McClellan: Is it 1978 or 1979?
Mr. Lewis: It’s 1979.
Hon. B. Stephenson: It’s 1979.
Mr. Lewis: But you’re celebrating family unity month next month. The hypocrisy doesn’t really matter.
Mr. McClellan: I was going to come to family unity month a little later.
Mr. Makarchuk: I’ve always wondered where the Tories came from.
Hon. B. Stephenson: At least we can say we had parents; that’s more than you can say.
Mr. McClellan: If you are preparing for celebrations for the year of the child, they might remember that in Ontario, according to the National Council on Welfare --
Mr. Wildman: Go back to figuring out workmen’s compensation benefit increases.
Mr. McClellan: -- that in Ontario there are 400,000 children who live in poverty. Seventeen per cent of all the children in this province of Ontario are members of families living below the Statistics Canada poverty line. Ontario has a child poverty problem of what can only be called enormous proportions.
The great irony, of course, for the benefit of the Minister of Labour, is that most of the children, most of the 400,000 poor lads in this province belong to families whose parents are in the work force. That’s why we talk so angrily to her about the inadequacy of Ontario’s minimum wage law. That’s why we talk so angrily about the absence of measures that would make it easier to extend the collective bargaining process in this province. Ontario’s minimum wage, even after the August 1978 increases, will still be lower than British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec.
Mr. Martel: We’re a poor province.
Mr. Lewis: And the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Martel: Some day we’ll get a Minister of Labour who supports labouring people.
Mr. McClellan: And yet it is understood by all of us on this side of the House that the government will not eradicate poverty in this province as long as they tolerate substandard labour conditions, as long as they tolerate exploitation of working people and their families in secondary sectors of the work force. That is where poverty exists. That is where poverty exists in this province. The way to deal with it is through an adequate minimum wage. They can keep their four or five or how many it is --
Mr. Lewis: Four.
Mr. McClellan: -- philosophers who dispute the need for a decent minimum wage or for any minimum wage.
Mr. Makarchuk: Colin Brown will be number six on the list.
Mr. McClellan: May is going to be family unity month in Ontario. It wasn’t too long ago that I obtained a report -- this is by way of illustration of how this government fosters family unity through its social development policies, Mr. Speaker -- from the Metro Children’s Aid Society that indicated that 41 per cent of the kids in protective custody of the Metro Children’s Aid Society were kids who suffered from mental retardation, from a development handicap, and who were in care absolutely unnecessarily. They did not need to be in care. There was no reason for them to be separated from their families, except that this government has failed to develop the kind of family support services that would make it possible for a family to keep a handicapped child, a mentally retarded child. Forty-one per cent of the kids in the care of the Metro CAS were forced into care unnecessarily because of the absence of services and because of the absence of adequate income support for parents to keep their own kids.
At the same time that I received this report, we learned that $50 million of the new money that this government had received to provide community and home support services for the mentally retarded had been spent instead on the operating costs of the old hospital school. In other words, that $50 million became part of the government’s restraint program. It became, in a sense, a windfall profit to the government that was ploughed into existing operations for a cost saving of $50 million, in their own narrow little bookkeeping terms, and that money was not put into programs that would have made it possible for parents in Metro Toronto or other parts of Ontario to provide adequately f their own retarded children.
This is the same government that spends $33.50 a day to send a person to a hospital school for the retarded. That comes out to $10,000 a year per person.
Mr. Makarchuk: That even makes bad economies.
Mr. McClellan: Shortly before the election, members may recall that the minister announced he was finally going to bring in a special allowance for the parents of retarded kids that would enable them to absorb some of the enormous additional costs entailed in looking after a retarded child at home, and he offered the glorious and generous sum of $150 a month maximum. That is $150 a month this government is prepared to offer to a mother and father to keep their child at home together with them while at the same time it is willing to pay $10,000 a year to send the child to an institution.
That, by way of illustration, is a typical pattern with respect to this government’s social development policies. That is what this government has always done and it has, in the past and to this day, refused to move away to a different sense of social services, to a different philosophy of social development.
Yet it has the nerve to use the rhetoric of family unity when its policies are absolutely destructive of family unit.
Mr. Wildman: Penny wise, pound foolish.
Mr. McClellan: The Throne Speech offers special attention to the needs of the sick. I do not have to dwell on the health cut. I do not have to dwell on the cut in nursing services. There has been an enormous exodus of Ontario trained and educated nurses to the United States, nurses who could be used to form the basis of a community-based, home-based health delivery system. We have seen cuts in services such as visiting homemakers, for example, budgeted by the Ministry of Community and Social Services at $7.9 million, spent at the level of $4.9 million for a surplus in that area alone of $3 million. It all adds up. It all adds up to the kind of cost savings that the Treasurer was referring to this afternoon, I believe, during question period. If members want to know where he got those cost savings, he got $55 million of those cost savings or cost trimmings out of the budget of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Yet again they have the nerve, while at the same time savagely decimating services to families in Ontario, to pose as the champions of family unity, to pose as people concerned about the need for action to strengthen family life.
Finally, they mentioned in the Throne Speech that they intend to pay special attention to the needs of the elderly. I have a sense that we are heading for -- I think one can use the phrase -- an enormous social catastrophe with respect to the elderly. Ontario still has a relatively small percentage of elderly people, relative to the total population. I think it is in the order of eight per cent and that is substantially lower than the proportion of elderly in most western industrial societies, where it is more in the neighbourhood of 13 to 15 per cent.
Yet we are unable to cope in Ontario with the needs of our elderly today, even while they remain a relatively small segment of the total population. We know, as clearly as we knew that the baby boom was going to disrupt the school system and as clearly as we knew that the baby boom was going to disrupt the labour market, that the baby boom eventually is going to place enormous demands on our society and on our capacity to provide both income support and social services to the elderly population.
If we do not start planning for that immediately, if not sooner, we are going to be in an absolutely hopeless situation. Unless we begin to put into place now the two essential elements of an adequate income support scheme and a comprehensive community-based, home-oriented geriatric care service, we are going to be faced with the only alternative, which is a return to what amounts to incarceration of the elderly. There is no other way out. One cannot put that kind of a system in place overnight. It needs to be developed slowly over a period of time. Resources need to be allocated in a planned and systematic way over many years until that kind of a system gets put in place.
Failing that, we will have a crash program of building homes for the aged, which is a rather hideous prospect. We have barely emerged -- I don’t think in fact we have really emerged -- from the poor law era of dealing with the aged, which was to incarcerate the aged. Lambert Lodge was torn down last year or two years ago. It was in my riding. It was the old poor house in Toronto, a relic of the 1834 poor law tradition of looking after the indigent. It became the home for the aged. It was a hideous way to look after old people, and yet we have not really emerged from that.
The 1975 interministry report on residential services indicated very clearly and very starkly that this province really has not progressed from a policy of institutional incarceration as the main way of addressing the needs of the elderly people. The inter-ministry report spoke to the reality of the situation. It said: “Ontario gives its seniors a strong financial incentive to go inside, to go into institutional care. In the meantime, the aged person in the community can barely make ends meet and has extremely little in the way of service to help him stay there.” That is simply a description of an elderly care system that is based on a poor law mentality, on an institutional or custodial mentality. And Ontario has not moved away from that.
It is starting to pay lip service to the notion of developing adequate income supports and adequate community-based geriatric services on an integrated, comprehensive planned basis. But that has not happened in any serious way. All we have had so far is last summer’s student employment program. This government still has a sufficiently low sense of priorities with respect to the needs of the elderly that it is able to feel it can fob off such essential services as home support, home help and visiting homemakers to a temporary, ad hoc, low paid, minimum wage summer student employment program. That is a simple disgrace.
The Social Planning Council in its recent submission to the royal commission on pensions has pointed out the stark reality that in Metropolitan Toronto alone more than 50 per cent of the elderly individuals who are living alone, who are in the main women, have retirement incomes of less than $3,500 a year. That means that in Metro Toronto half the elderly individuals living alone are living in a state of poverty.
This government has no business identifying itself with those, as they say in the Throne Speech, thoughtful citizens who see a need for concerted action and are prepared to do something respecting supporting and strengthening the family. The government has much to do to get its own social development house in order if it intends to undertake a review of each of those five areas within the Social Development secretariat. The review shouldn’t take very long. The review shouldn’t take any longer than 10 or 15 minutes.
Members in both parties on this side of the House have been addressing themselves to these concerns for many years. My colleague from Sudbury East has spoken on all of those issues in the years when he was social service critic prior to myself. Before him, critics have addressed themselves to the selfsame issues I’m raising again here tonight, probably for the umpteenth time.
This government does not need a review of action to support and strengthen families. This government needs the guts to do something about these long-neglected areas of social development policies.
Mr. Laughren: You just hit on the missing ingredient.
Mr. McClellan: I would like to conclude by making a couple of remarks respecting the needs of my own constituency. I don’t know how to describe the sense of anger within the community I represent with respect to the Workmen’s Compensation Board. I raise it every year at every possible opportunity, I suppose, to the Minister of Labour. It’s beginning to sound boring.
I remind the minister that I fought the last election with my Conservative opponent largely on the issue of the Workmen’s Compensation Board. We joined in combat very directly and very specifically on that issue in my community, and the results speak for themselves. The Conservative candidate managed to reduce the Conservative vote to less than 25 per cent in a riding that had been held by the Conservative Party previously for 25 years when the issue was the Workmen’s Compensation Board. It really was a local issue election in many respects in 1977.
I would hope the minister would take note of that. I doubt she will. Her remarks in this House as recently as Friday, in response to my request that she bring in an amendment to the Workmen’s Compensation Act to raise the rates, which have been raised since 1975, were simply despicable.
The consumer price index has gone up something in the order of 20 per cent since the last increase in the workmen’s compensation rate. It is only just that the minister raise the workmen’s compensation rates at least by an equivalent amount. Those rates are already inadequate, as every member in this House knows. Every single member in this House knows that the workmen’s compensation rates are inadequate. For the minister and the government to sit there and refuse, after three years, to bring in a cost-of-living increase, that is sick government; that is government that is unworthy of any people.
Mr. Makarchuk: Her ideology has paralysed any sense of compassion she ever had.
Mr. McClellan: The explanation is very simple: After the last raise in 1975, the government was unwilling to raise the assessments on companies sufficient to retire the cost of the last increase. As a result, the government has a $400-million unfunded liability. Rather than deal with the problem by raising the rates and retiring the cost in a reasonable period of time, it commissioned this study. It is now postponing and deliberately delaying the obvious rational course of action, which is to raise the rates, and it is an act of pettiness that --
Hon. B. Stephenson: Don’t impugn others with your motives.
Mr. Laughren: The minister is a blot on the landscape.
Mr. McClellan: It is an act of pettiness that is a blot on this government’s record, and on any government would be.
Mr. Conway: It is an act of Bette-ness.
Mr. McClellan: The other issue with respect to the Workmen’s Compensation Board is the problem of jobs for injured workers, and again that’s an issue that’s been raised by both parties on this side of the House. Surely to God that’s not a partisan issue. Surely it makes sense for the government to provide, through affirmative action or through any other means, even if it’s affirmative action within its own hiring policy, jobs for injured workers, particularly for injured workers who --
Mr. Laughren: The government is not doing anything for them.
Mr. Makarchuk: Don’t mumble. Just raise the amounts.
Mr. McClellan: -- work in manual labour and who lack, for a variety of reasons, the skills to upgrade themselves vocationally and there are thousands --
Mr. Speaker: Will the hon. members for Nickel Belt and York Mills carry on their private conversation elsewhere?
Mr. McClellan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are thousands and thousands of workers in this province who are in that predicament and the government still fails to act.
Mr. Wildman: Let them eat cake.
Mr. Makarchuk: Marie Antoinette.
Mr. McClellan: Let them do what? Let them go on welfare. Let them eat cake. Let them do anything, this government’s attitude is, except go back to work. My constituents will not go to welfare. My constituents won’t go to the welfare office. Injured workers in the riding of Bellwoods will borrow from friends and from family and they will do without, but they will not go to the welfare office. They don’t want workmen’s compensation particularly either. What they want is work that they can do at a decent wage that will support their families.
That’s not a very irrational demand. That’s not a very unjust demand for people of this province to make on their government, and yet this demand is being made year after year. Injured workers have come in their thousands to demonstrate here in front of this Legislature and they came from my riding. The Union of Injured Workers originated in the riding of Bellwoods. Nothing has been done. Nothing has been done since that ferment first began within my community back in 1969-70 and now it’s 1978 and the frustration is just as strong and the resentment is just as deep and just as bitter as it was eight years ago.
It will stay so until this government comes to grips with the needs of injured workers through a twofold program of adequate compensation, eventually through universal accident and illness insurance, and secondly, through a program of guaranteed jobs for injured workers through affirmative action. Yet the Throne Speech says the government is going to pay special attention to the needs of the handicapped. What a lot of bunk. What a lot of hypocrisy.
Mr. Makarchuk: They should have printed it on stitched rolls.
Mr. McClellan: Finally, the issue of property tax relief: Nothing promised nothing gained. There continues to be a need within my community for some kind of special tax credit provisions for home renovation. We are very interested in development in the great riding of Bellwoods, but not in highrise development. We would like to redevelop our own homes. Most of my riding has been redeveloped by the workers who own and occupy their own homes; and they, by and large, rebuilt their own homes from the inside out and from the bottom to the top. Those who haven’t done it yet are doing it now. It is a part of the economy of my community that supports a lot of people, a lot of small businessmen, a lot of tradespeople. It is a very vital part of the economic life of the community that I represent.
It is an enormous hardship to the working people who spend their time and effort -- mostly their own sweat equity -- on renovating and redeveloping their homes, to then get socked with an enormous increase in their assessment. It’s iniquitous. The contribution that that kind of sweat equity and that kind of investment represents to the community, in terms of preserving the housing stock and preserving the stability and liveability of our neighbourhoods and communities, ought to be recognized through property tax credits that accrue to the renovator-owner of the property.
I would hope the government would see the wisdom of introducing those kinds of measures. I appreciate the opportunity to have joined in the debate. But I regard this Throne Speech as even more obnoxious than previous Throne Speeches. I thank you for your indulgence.
Mr. Sterling: Although I have had the opportunity of speaking in this House on two or three occasions prior to this time, I have never really had the opportunity to talk to this House about the former member for Carleton-Grenville, Donald Irvine. I would like to pay tribute to him at this time, because I believe that he served the province of Ontario and served his community in an outstanding manner.
Before coming to the Legislature of Ontario, Don served on his council and as mayor of the town of Prescott. In 1971, he was elected to the Legislature for the riding of Grenville-Dundas. In 1975, he was re-elected as the first member for Carleton-Grenville, and retired in 1977. Don served as the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer and was the Minister of Housing. He then went to the Provincial Secretariat for Resources Development. I know Don, personally; I know his wife Eleanor. I think that both these individuals have given to Ontario a tremendous contribution.
I would like everyone in the House who were friends of Don to know that he hasn’t withdrawn from community life. He continues as a representative for the town of Prescott and the South Grenville Industrial Commission, and is doing everything in a local sense to try to attract industry to his town of Prescott.
Mr. Nixon: He’d be pushing Edwardsburgh in every way he could.
Mr. Samis: He’d probably be criticizing the government for their inaction. He already has, hasn’t he?
Mr. Sterling: Don is doing everything to help in the development of Edwardsburgh, and I might report that he was at our meeting with the other local representatives on November 18. He agreed with all of the proposals that were put forward by the relative ministries at that time --
Mr. Wildman: Was he out planting trees?
Mr. Sterling: -- including those by the Ministry of Natural Resources to utilize some of the land in the southern end for the growth of poplar and other types of forestry programs.
Mr. Samis: Why don’t you plant jobs, not trees?
Mr. Sterling: And I might add to the member for Cornwall that one of the reasons Don felt so strongly about supporting that program was so that that particular land site can provide pulp that is badly needed for the mills in Cornwall.
Mr. Samis: Well, we’ll see what he produces.
Mr. Nixon: We liked his goodbye speech at his dinner.
Mr. Sterling: At that speech at his dinner on November 17, I had the pleasure of reading a telegram from the Treasurer. He described Mr. Irvine as “the greatest right-winger since Maurice Richard.”
An hon. member: Since Attila the Hun.
Mr. Samis: Where does that leave Handleman? Don’t mention that name in Dundas.
Mr. Sterling: I believe that that was probably a fairly good description and Don never hid his political leanings.
Mr. Samis: He sure didn’t. How could he?
Mr. Sterling: I only wish that some of the politicians in this House had listened more closely to him and recognized the facts as they were.
Mr. Nixon: We got along with him fine, but his colleagues didn’t get along with him very well sometimes.
Hon. W. Newman: Look who’s talking.
Hon. B. Stephenson: We got along very well, very well indeed.
Mr. Nixon: The Tories wouldn’t listen to him. He had more sense than half of them rolled into one.
Mr. Foulds: What board, agency or commission has he been appointed to?
Mr. Sterling: Don is in private industry at this time --
Mr. Cassidy: He is waiting for his appointment, is that right?
Mr. Walker: That means he is a taxpayer.
Mr. Sterling: -- for the information of the members opposite, and in his endeavours at this time he has been travelling to the province of Quebec. We have spoken on several occasions of the situation of the economy and the feeling of the people in Quebec. He is very concerned with that feeling, and I think we all must recognize in this House that the political uncertainty in this country is having more effect on the economy than anything else, and we must all work together to attempt to rectify that situation at the earliest possible date.
Mr. Wildman: Inco’s trying.
Mr. Sterling: I think another thing that Don would have said and which I would endorse, and after listening to the proposals by the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan) --
Mr. Cassidy: What do you think? We learned too well what he thought.
Mr. Samis: Who’s the member for Carleton-Grenville?
Mr. Sterling: I think we could endorse the policy that we cannot continue to spend ad infinitum more than we collect.
Mr. Nixon: Darcy’s got a plan.
Mr. Samis: Tell Darcy that.
Mr. Nixon: It’s called slip-year finance.
Mr. Kerrio: Just keep bringing the money up from New York on a triple-A train.
Mr. Sterling: I was interested in reading the Ontario Economic Council’s report on business investment. That report outlined that the rates of return on our investment at this time are too low to attract additional investment. It also pointed out that our costs of manufacturing and labour are too high and our productivity is too low.
I think it’s important to remember that every time we as individuals or any particular labour group get a dollar more on the wage packet, it effectively takes a dollar out of another wage earner’s packet. It’s usually from a weaker worker.
Mr. Nixon: How about those dollars we gave Steve Roman this afternoon?
Mr. Sterling: I think we must face up to these things. I must state that we must face up to these actual facts and deal with them in the very near future.
Hon. W. Newman: I’d love to put the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk in the hot seat.
Mr. Samis: We want to hear the member for Carleton-Grenville here.
Mr. Wildman: Give him a chance, eh?
Mr. Samis: Come on, Bill.
Mr. Sterling: I’d like to turn now to the riding of Carleton-Grenville, which is an eastern Ontario community, part rural, part urban.
Mr. Wildman: Part Irvine?
Mr. Sterling: It was part Irvine and now it’s part urban.
Mr. Wildman: One saw him for one minute and he’d disappear for weeks.
Mr. Sterling: In the Throne Speech there was reference to the --
Mr. Samis: Ah, finally.
Mr. Sterling: -- South Nation watershed. I’m glad that our government has given a top priority to this problem which has existed for some period of time.
Mr. Nixon: That is the Edwardsburgh swamp.
Mr. Sterling: Part of the Edwardsburgh land site is located in the South Nation watershed and no doubt will become part of this overall program.
Mr. Samis: Forget the raging river.
Mr. Sterling: It is hoped the program in total will alleviate the flooding, provide adequate quantities and quality of water to meet the needs of the people, industry and the community during all of the year and optimize the use of agricultural land in the area.
It is expected that the program will require a great deal of capital expenditure and our government recognizes that it will not be able to solve all of the problems encountered. However, it is presently undertaking major engineering studies to determine the best possible route to take in this endeavour. One of the first projects is already under way, being the Chesterville dam. I am glad to see that our government is recognizing this most important need in eastern Ontario.
There are other areas of the Throne Speech which directly affect my riding. Recently Ontario Hydro has indicated that there are four sites in the southern end of Grenville and the southern end of Dundas county which would be selected as future generation centres. It is noted, as the former Minister of Energy noted in this House, that the municipalities located close to these potential centres have all expressed a desire to explore the possibilities of an energy station being located near them.
The leaders of these communities, the township of Augusta, the township of Edwardsburgh, the town of Prescott, the town of Cardinal and the town of Iroquois, all have taken a positive approach to the location of a generating station in their area.
Mr. Samis: Along with other things.
Ms. Sterling: They see that Grenville and Dundas can have a greater role in providing the energy for eastern Ontario. While I myself have some reservations about the size of any generating station that might be built there, I congratulate the municipalities on their openness to Ontario Hydro at this time. If we have to provide jobs in eastern Ontario we must also provide the energy to eastern Ontario.
On February 17 of this year I was honoured to be named the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry). I look forward to working closely with him and taking to a final conclusion the Family Law Reform Act which is now before this Legislature. I also look forward to working with all of this Legislature in attaining the best possible Custody Act in this session of Parliament.
In the fall session we dealt with amendments to the Small Claims Courts Act. I believe this Act again could be amended and the whole small claims court system could be revamped. I intend, if I am able to maintain my position as parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General for a long period of time, to look into this particular area. I will also be looking into the need for courthouse facilities in the locale from where I come -- that is in the city of Ottawa.
Mr. McClellan: What if you are sacked?
Mr. Sterling: It is interesting that the members should talk about my neighbours across the way in Quebec because we do have many problems with them in terms of trying to keep straight the policies of the provincial government of Quebec in terms of offering opportunity to tradesmen and to small businessmen to carry on their business in that province.
Mr. Samis: The problem is in Ontario, not in Quebec.
Mr. Sterling: I have worked closely with these businessmen in attempting to dispel any rumors which are untrue, and I have also approached our government in urging them to seek agreements with the province of Quebec in clearing the way.
Mr. Samis: With no results.
Mr. Sterling: I think it is noteworthy that a press release not more than two weeks ago came out noting that the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow) had a meeting regarding the licensing of trucks with the province of Quebec and was successful in reaching an agreement with them to alleviate a potentially aggravating condition. In that area I think that most eastern Ontario residents understand the difficulties in implementing a blanket policy regarding the use of a second language within its system. I believe that the bilingual policy of the federal government has done immeasurable harm to the cause of unity in my riding.
Mr. Samis: That’s not what Joe Clark says.
Mr. Sterling: I am thankful that we are not making the same mistakes here in Ontario.
Mr. Samis: That is not what Walter Baker says.
Mr. Sterling: This is my first term in the Legislature of Ontario and I trust that I will be here for a few terms in future.
Mr. Foulds: You almost missed your cue that time.
Mr. Ruston: The Minister of Agriculture and Food is the only one who is applauding.
Mr. Sterling: Of the 36 years which I have now lived within this province, 35 years have been blessed with Tory rule.
Mr. McClellan: Blessed did you say?
Mr. Nixon: Blessed! Maybe that’s your problem.
Hon. W. Newman: It sure is yours.
Mr. Samis: Quit while you are ahead.
Mr. Kerrio: You can’t win them all.
Mr. Walker: Maybe you meant to say shock.
Mr. Wildman: Doesn’t it make you feel old?
Mr. Nixon: No, he’s just a baby -- one of these war babies.
Mr. Sterling: Our province has prospered in the past and presented unlimited opportunities to its young people.
Mr. Samis: Not in eastern Ontario.
Mr. Sterling: Now we are moving into an era where we have moved from the basic economic premises that ruled our parents.
Mr. McClellan: Speak English.
Mr. Sterling: I believe that the programs outlined in the Throne Speech will start us back towards the position where the people of Ontario can again regain the optimism and security for the future of this province.
Mr. Blundy: I am very happy to participate in the debate on the Throne Speech. You might say, Mr. Speaker, this is my maiden speech in the House, although I have spoken a number of times on various pieces of legislation and on estimates in the House, but tonight I am going to be able really to tell you all about Sarnia. When I get through I would imagine there will be a great exodus from all of your ridings to the Sarnia area.
Mr. Cassidy: Just from this House; that’s all.
Mr. Foulds: Why is everybody leaving?
Mr. Blundy: I got rid of that many. By the time I get through speaking there won’t be anybody but the Speaker and myself here. However, I do want to say several of the news media asked me what about the Throne Speech.
Mr. Kennedy: We are all listening.
Mr. Blundy: I said it was so vague it was very difficult for me to pinpoint anything that would be of interest.
Mr. Walker: You haven’t read it.
Mr. Blundy: If one speaks in very vague terms, then one is really not pinned down to anything, and that’s the way I look upon this recent Throne Speech. When one thinks about the province of Ontario and the problems we have now, its economic condition and financial condition and its unemployment --
An hon. member: You blame Trudeau like the rest of them.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Fight about the price of uranium.
Mr. Blundy: -- it’s hard to realize how the government could propose a Speech from the Throne so vague as the one that we heard last Tuesday. I hope that those vague terms in which that Throne Speech was written will produce more than they did in my mind when I heard that Speech from the Throne on Tuesday.
There was some reference to looking at boards and commissions. I don’t believe they used the words “sunset law,” which my friend from London South (Mr. Walker) mentioned, but I personally think that a sunset law is long overdue in this province, when you consider the number of boards and commissions, most of which came into being so many years ago that most of us don’t know what they stand for. I think that if we really want to streamline the government of this province, we ought to look at those. I hope there will be something done in that regard.
Mr. Kerrio: We’ll have to streamline most of the government.
Mr. Blundy: There were very few hopes for unemployed people of this province in the Throne Speech debate. I noticed in today’s paper that the Economic Council of Ontario said it is likely that unemployment will be a problem in this province for the next eight years. Well, God help us. There wasn’t very much in the Throne Speech of last Tuesday that is going to deal with the problem of unemployment that exists right now. I know that the troubles we are in with unemployment and inflation and economics cannot all be laid at the door of the government, but I think a good deal of it can. I was interested that the hon. member for Grenville-Carleton (Mr. Sterling) talked about this government being in for 35 of his 36 years of life. All I have to say is that I feel sorry for the member for Grenville-Carleton. He hasn’t lived yet. Wait until we get another government and then he’ll see what this province can be like.
Mr. Germa: How it was with Mitch.
Mr. Blundy: I think what I’ve said about the Throne Speech is about all that it deserves.
I would like to talk about some of the good things in the province of Ontario; and, in particular, about the riding of Sarnia. The riding of Sarnia, for the edification of all of those present, is composed of the city of Sarnia and the township of Sarnia and the village of Point Edward. The village of Point Edward is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, 1878 to 1978. The village of Point Edward came into being with the coming of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in 1877, and was incorporated in 1878. So we’re going to have a big celebration down there and Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, will come to open that celebration.
As far as the city of Sarnia is concerned, I’m sure that most of the members know the vibrant economy and the vibrant industrial complex that we have in the city of Sarnia. The people of the city of Sarnia can never understand how they can have all these industries, with continuing employment and their contribution to the gross national product of this country -- and think of all the income tax and the corporation tax and so forth that comes out of the city of Sarnia -- yet what does the city of Sarnia get in return? Very little. This government in power now, looks out from the ramparts of Queen’s Park, peers out to the west and perhaps on a good day might see as far as London; but as far as Sarnia, no.
Mr. Ruston: Or Windsor.
Mr. Nixon: They don’t see much past Brampton.
Mr. Mancini: Shame on your government.
Mr. Ruston: We’ll fool you. We’ll secede.
Mr. Blundy: A neighbour of mine was doing some alteration in the home and tore out a partition and found a newspaper of May 1925. The headline story was that the chamber of commerce and the city council of the city of Sarnia were coming to Queen’s Park to see if they could get the road paved from Sarnia to London.
Mr. Mancini: They’re still trying.
Mr. Blundy: Fifty-three years later, I am pleading with the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow) --
Mr. Mancini: Where is the minister?
Mr. Blundy: -- to build a road from Sarnia to Highway 401 that will take care of the traffic that is generated by the city of Sarnia.
Mr. Mancini: How many years to macadamize a road?
Mr. Blundy: If you drive out Highway 7 from Sarnia towards London, you have to pass convoys of tank trucks and other transport trucks, in addition to the ordinary automobile traffic. Highway 7 and Highway 22 from Sarnia to London is known as the death strip. Every year the number of deaths and the accidents and the injuries to people are increasing.
And here now, 53 years later Mr. Speaker, I beg the province and the government of Ontario to provide us with a four-lane controlled-access highway to the centre of government and commerce in the province of Ontario.
I think the city of Sarnia deserves it. The city, in our immediate area, is the leader in the petrochemical field. The refineries of all the oil companies are there, the chemical industries. Every time you people drink a cup of coffee out of a Styrofoam cup, you are adding and contributing to the welfare of the city of Sarnia.
When you stand at the corner of South Vidal Street and Churchill Road, you can just look around, and in a glance you can see the entire ethylene production of Canada, with Imperial Oil, Dow Chemical and Ethyl Chemical.
There is no doubt about the contribution that has been made to the province by the Sarnia area, but there is considerable doubt about what has been returned to the long-suffering people of the city of Sarnia and area.
There is another matter that I would just like to touch on, when I was speaking about the industries of Sarnia. Mr. Speaker. For some time the mayor and members of council, and the people of Sarnia, have wanted to have a daily air pollution index for the city of Sarnia.
When I came here, I talked to the Minister of the Environment at that time, now the Solicitor General (Mr. Kerr), on several occasions. One time he said to me, “Why do you want so badly to have a daily air pollution index for the city of Sarnia?” I said. “Because I want to show the people that we have been maligned over the years and that we don’t smell nearly as badly as people have painted us.”
Mr. Ruston: That’s what comes of using a good deodorant.
Hon. F. S. Miller: There’s the answer.
Mr. Blundy: I tell you that the daily air pollution index was commenced as of December 1, 1977, and since that time I have been proven right.
Most of the days we are lower than Hamilton, Toronto, Sudbury, Windsor et cetera; most of the days. Check it out and you find out that I am right. Occasionally there is an accident, odour will release or something. Consider, Mr. Speaker, that in the last 15 years, the incidence or the amount of industry in the Sarnia area has increased tenfold, and in that same time, the air pollution, the quality of the air has improved tenfold.
The industries are not perfect, they are not pure; but they have done a tremendous job in trying to come up to and stand up to the requirements of the Ministry of the Environment in the province of Ontario and I have to give those industries credit where credit is due.
I would like to speak about finance, particularly as it pertains to my riding. Over the past seven or eight years during the term of this government, they have used every nickel that came into the teachers’ superannuation fund, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Service Fund, and the Canada Pension Plan as it pertains to Ontarians. All this money was so handy it burned a hole in the pocket of the government and the government had to spend it. They did spend it. They have been on a spending spree for the last seven or eight years. Now we are reaping the whirlwind. We are going to have to restrain ourselves. The government is saying we must restrain here and there and so forth.
What really gets me is that the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) has the nerve to renege on the Edmonton commitment as far as the municipalities of Ontario are concerned. Tomorrow is March 1. In that month, March, the municipalities of this province will be sitting down and going over the budgets for the year 1978 -- and are they ever going to have a time. Their costs have gone up -- everything that they do has gone up, their wages and so forth -- and they are going to get a smaller percentage increase from the province than they have had in years gone by. The municipalities of Ontario don’t know exactly how badly off they are until the end of this month is over and they have done their municipal budgets.
Another thing I want to speak of is the matter that has been raised by the mayor and city council and by myself. It is the matter of the treatment of certain municipalities in this province which, because they looked after their affairs, had an updating of their assessment prior to the takeover of the assessment function by the province in 197ö. In the case of the city of Sarnia, we had an updating of our assessment, not quite to market value but very close to it, in 1962. Several other municipalities, such as Windsor, St. Catharines and Waterloo and other areas. did the same thing,
Mr. B. Newman: Emphasize Windsor.
Mr. Blundy: I’ll leave that to the hon. member.
However, now, Mr. Speaker, those people who were aggressive and tried to do something for their municipality are being penalized, because as the function of assessment throughout the province was taken over in 1970 -- practically over my dead body because I was the mayor at the time and I was very much opposed to it -- now the resource equalization grants are based on those sums of assessment as of that date.
Naturally the city of Sarnia had its assessment increased to the point where it gets zero resource equalization grants -- nothing, zero. The city of Sarnia gets nothing.
We have been asking that until such time as market value assessment is introduced throughout the province of Ontario, we and the other municipalities similarly affected should get transitional grants to tide us over. This is the only fair way to treat the cities of Sarnia and Windsor and St. Catharines, and the other municipalities similarly affected. It has been asked by me in this House, it has been asked by the mayor, and up to this time we have received a negative answer.
What does it mean to my constituents? It means that in this year of 1978 they will pay additional taxes of at least $58 on the average home throughout the city because they are not able to get the grants that are due to the city of Sarnia and the other municipalities which I mentioned.
I was reading in the paper, I believe it was the London Free Press, where they were making a comparison of assessment, because they were talking about the subject of which I am now talking. They mentioned that the Treasurer’s home in Raleigh township outside of Chatham was assessed for $11,000. According to the article I read in the paper, the minister said the taxes he paid on that house were just a little under $1,000.
Mr. Conway: Another Tory.
Mr. Blundy: Let me tell you what the comparison of that is in the city of Sarnia that produces so much to make Ontario a great province.
On my home, which is on the shores of Lake Huron in Sarnia, the assessment is $20,400, and you can look it up. The taxes that I pay on that property are $1,794. You know as well as I do that a poor man like me would not have a home as nice as the Treasurer has. So you can see the injustice of it. I have pleaded and pleaded for this government to look on this in a fair and just manner, and we have had nothing but a deaf ear.
Mr. Nixon: That fellow McKeough has a ducal estate.
Mr. Blundy: The people of the Sarnia riding are going to remember that. They’re not going to forget it. They can remember that for 35 of those 53 years that we’ve been waiting for a highway, the government in power now has been in power -- and they will not forget that.
Mr. Roy: He pays less taxes than I do, even.
Mr. Blundy: I would like to continue in a more peaceful vein. There are a couple of other things that I would like to speak about that are perhaps less controversial than those of which I have just spoken. One of the things I would like to mention, and I hope to pursue this matter later in the House as well, is the matter of insurance for municipalities.
Many of the municipalities pay out ever- increasing sums of money for public liability, property damage, fire and theft -- the ordinary things that we all pay in the way of insurance. It is becoming an increasing burden for municipalities. What I would like to propose is that the ministry responsible for municipal affairs try to correlate the insurance needs and the insurance problems of all the municipalities of Ontario.
Let us have a co-ordinated approach to insurance. The people of Ontario could save considerable money if we had a large blanket policy to which all of the municipalities contributed and which would cover the insurance needs of all the municipalities of Ontario. This is something that, when I was mayor, I tried very hard to get going and never was able to obtain it. I hope that later on I will be able to make some proposals in this House that might be able to achieve that. It is a way of municipalities being able to save dollars on their insurance.
I would also like to speak on behalf of the municipalities -- that they be given more autonomy. The more that they become a creature of the province through budget, grants and so forth, the more the autonomy of a municipality is eroded. I think that the people who are elected on the municipal scene are just as important as those who are elected on the provincial level or the federal level.
As a matter of fact, when you are a municipal politician, the people who vote for you know you so well -- you live in their community; you work in their community -- they really do pick people who they know can be responsible. I have said over and over again that the municipalities are losing their autonomy every year because of the grant structure of the government at this time.
I would like to mention something about the recent report on provincial-municipal grants. The report talks about a number of things, but there’s one thing about which I am quite bothered. In our riding we have what is known as the St. Clair Parkway, which is one of the most interesting drives in the province of Ontario. You drive from the beautiful waters of Lake Huron, all the way down the St. Clair River, by our industries and through the farm lands of Moore township.
Mr. Conway: And the Lorne Henderson estate?
Mr Blundy: Yes. We go right through the riding of the Minister of Government Services, and I think he probably will be very interested in what I have to say.
It has been suggested that the St. Clair Parkway and the Sydenham River Conservation Authority, which chiefly runs through Lambton county, be amalgamated. That’s absolute nonsense; they are 40 miles apart. If they were two organizations that were close by, whereby they could share the equipment and the manpower of the two of them, there could be a saving seen in that respect. But to try to cut down the contribution of the province of Ontario to those two great bodies in the Sarnia-Lambton area, under the guise of amalgamating the two, is really a dirty trick; that’s all I have to say about it.
The people of Lambton riding -- although the Minister of Government Services may not tell you this -- feel the same about it as we do in Sarnia. To amalgamate the Sydenham Conservation Authority and the St. Clair Parkway, which are really not the same kinds of bodies in many respects and which are 40 miles apart, is a ridiculous thing and I hope to be able to speak about against that at a future time.
I have appreciated this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to tell you something about the wonders of my riding and about the problems that I believe my constituents face. They are not only problems that are being faced by my municipality but they are being faced generally by the municipalities of Ontario. I just hope there will be more of a sense of direction given to the municipalities, that there will be a greater degree of autonomy for the municipalities of Ontario and that the government of Ontario is not going to try to reduce that awful deficit it has at the expense of the municipalities of Ontario. This is what is being talked of now and the municipalities of Ontario recognize that. The government members can talk about their 35 years in office --
Mr. Conway: Has Bette been here this long?
Mr. Blundy: No, it just seems that long. But I am saying that after 35 years of the government we have had, it isn’t going to continue very long; there are going to be some changes very soon.
Hon. B. Stephenson: You have got a cloudy crystal ball, Mr. Blunder.
Mr. Blundy: I am sorry that the minister is not going to be around for another 35 years --
Mr. Cassidy: You never put your hatchet away.
Mr. Blundy: I don’t take offence at the minister calling me Mr. Blunder. At least she is getting the first five letters of my name correct anyway.
An hon. member: You are half right, Bette.
Mr. Conway: What is it over there? Is it Miss, Ms. or Mrs.?
Mr. Cassidy: Just call her Mr. Stephenson and see how she reacts.
Mr. Cunningham: Ms. One of these days, Bette, your job is going to turn you grey.
Mr. Blundy: I want to conclude my remarks on a very pleasant tone. I think it is a great opportunity for me to be a member in this House, and I really appreciate being able to represent the people of the city of Sarnia and the township of Sarnia and the village of Point Edward here in this House. I appreciate having this opportunity to speak tonight.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to be able to join in this Throne Speech debate. This is my first Throne Speech debate since being elected.
I guess I could spend some time talking about my home town and my home riding. I don’t want to talk about it in any great depth, but I maybe should point out that Windsor too, like Sarnia, feels a little bit alienated from the great metropolis of Toronto and the present government. I should point out especially to the Minister of Labour (B. Stephenson) that although she did suggest at one time in this House that Windsor should be shut down, and the Minister of Education (Mr. Wells) at another time suggested that we should raise the American flag over Essex county, Windsor and Essex county intend to stay part of this province and we intend to send good NDP representatives to this House for many years.
Mr. Mancini: Yes, not too many.
Mr. Cooke: We’ve got two out of three in Windsor, and we’ll get that third one one of these days.
Hon. B. Stephenson: No such thing. That’s a contradiction in terms, good NDP representatives.
Mr. Cooke: I think the people of Windsor would disagree with the minister.
I would like to talk briefly about some of the issues raised in the Throne Speech -- some of them local issues and some that affect the province as a whole. I was very pleased that the Throne Speech finally recognized that unemployment is the number one problem in this province. In the past, we have heard the Premier (Mr. Davis) and members of the cabinet talk about national unity being the number one problem. We’ve heard them talk about inflation and balancing the budget as being the number one problem. The people of Windsor and the people of this province recognize unemployment is the number one problem.
I recently sent out a questionnaire as part of my Queen’s Park report, and clearly the people of Windsor-Riverside state that unemployment is the number one problem. Fifty-nine per cent of the people who returned the questionnaire stated that was the number one problem. Another top-priority problem that I will talk about later was the reform of the property tax.
The government, as I say, has recognized now that unemployment is the number one problem. but what does it plan on doing about it? We continue to hear that our economy is recovering. Over the last three years the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) and the federal officials have told us that our economy is getting better, but each month we get the unemployment figures and they continue to rise. Last year the government coped with unemployment by suggesting that it would redefine what full employment meant. Now this year it decides it is going to cope with it by saying it is out of its jurisdiction, it is a federal problem.
Mr. Cassidy: It’s a cop-out.
Mr. Cooke: I just don’t agree with that approach. I think this government has it within its power to have a great effect on unemployment and to resolve the problem to a certain extent. Instead, what this government is doing is it is contributing to unemployment. The budget cutbacks in Health, Colleges and Universities, grants to municipalities, have all contributed to thousands of civil servants being laid off.
Nobody knows better about that problem than the representatives from Windsor. In Windsor the provincial government is attempting to close a chronic-care hospital, it has closed our OHIP office; we are being affected like every other municipality by cutbacks in municipal grants, school boards are being affected, and our university is being affected. The government decided to close Riverview Hospital. That decision will eventually be made in the courts, but if that hospital is closed there will at least be a number of layoffs. The union says a couple of hundred; it’s debatable exactly how many layoffs there will be, but a number of people will lose their jobs as a result of that hospital being closed. Not only will people lose their jobs, but the quality of care to chronic-care patients will certainly be decreased when they’re moved into a hospital that has been a general hospital up to this point.
The OHIP office closing probably enraged the citizens of Windsor more than anything else that has happened to us over the last few months. Forty-seven people could possibly have lost their jobs. It didn’t quite amount to that many, but around 40 people lost their jobs. Instead, the office was centralized in London. I should point out that Windsor has an unemployment rate of 11.4 per cent as of January 31. London has an unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent. If this government had any sense at all, what they would have done is reversed the trend. They would have had the OHIP office centralized in Windsor, if they really felt that was going to be saving money.
The school boards in our province are being cut back. As a former school board trustee, I think I have some understanding of exactly what’s going to happen. In Windsor, for example, the Windsor Board of Education is talking presently of laying off a number of caretakers. With declining enrolment, teachers are now losing their jobs. Again that is another example of the government’s cutting back grants or not increasing grants in order to keep up with inflation and, as a result, more people are unemployed.
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities, which is now the area for which I will be responsible for my party, recently announced that grants for 1978 would be increasing by an average of 5.8 per cent. The immediate reaction of universities across this province was that there will have to be cutbacks in staff. We know that the cutbacks in staff are going to result in teaching assistants being laid off and graduate students losing valuable income. Also some professors will no doubt lose their jobs. Courses will be cut and therefore programs for our university students in this province are going to be seriously affected. I just don’t think that’s the direction in which we should be going.
I don’t understand why this government is so obsessed with balancing a budget by 1981 when we have 300,000 people in this province presently unemployed. Even the President of the United States, President Carter, who said he wanted to balance his budget by 1981, is now saying that that is an unrealistic goal and that the priority should be to get the people back to work. With increased revenues and with people working and paying taxes, then we can start talking about balancing a budget.
I’d also like to talk a bit about the auto industry since it’s so very important to my home town. So far in 1978 the workers in the auto plant at Chrysler Canada have been laid off for four weeks, and the prospects are that they’re going to be laid off again. Auto sales are on the decline. Big cars are not selling and the cars we produce in Windsor are fairly large cars. I beg the government to start looking at the problem now before we have another crisis. Windsor is pretty well a one-industry town. If they don’t start coming up with plans to revitalize the auto industry, we’re going to have a serious problem in Windsor, as they had in Sudbury.
Mr. Foulds: When it starts hitting the manufacturing sector, the economy is in real trouble.
Mr. Cooke: I suggest to the government that they look at that problem immediately, that they look at what could be done and what can be done and not wait for a problem to arise and then react to a crisis. Because from what I’ve seen of this government so far, that’s exactly what they do. They plan and they react. They react to a crisis all the time. Sudbury is an example.
In social services right now with the child abuse problem they could have made some major changes when people were talking about it before. Instead, they had to wait for child abuse cases to be reported in the press and tragic deaths to occur. Then the government decided they’re going to take action. That’s not the way an effective, responsible government should be acting.
The Throne Speech states that the government is committed to getting a better deal on the auto pact for Ontario and for Canada. They are committed to convince or put pressure on the federal government to make those changes or possibly renegotiate the auto pact. I’ve been hearing that for quite some time now. The Treasurer has been talking about it, but I get the impression that he’s not really serious about the renegotiation of the auto pact.
On motion by Mr. Cooke, the debate was adjourned.
On motion by Hon. F. S. Miller, the House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.